HELICOPTERS roared over the heads of cheering families in a salute as HMS Richmond returned home from seven months at sea.
The Royal Navy frigate has spent 2,881 hours at sea, clocking up 33,316 nautical miles and visiting several foreign countries.
Yesterday, excited mums, dads, sons and daughters, lined the jetty at Portsmouth Naval Base for the ship’s homecoming.
Banners and flags were waved at the frigate’s crew as they arrived in the harbour in the early morning.
And once the gangways were lifted into place, the ship’s company flooded off the ship and out to meet their loved ones.
Chief Petty Officer John Hobson, 30, was met off the ship by his two-year-old son John, four-month-old son Albie, and wife Natasha, 32.
He said: ‘I’m pleased to be back home.
‘It’s been a long and hard deployment but everyone has worked hard.
‘Everyone on board has been looking forward to this day for a very long time.
‘I was lucky enough to be able to come home and see Albie after he was born.
‘I missed the birth by five days unfortunately, but it was nice to be able to come home and spend some time with my family before going back.’
Natasha added: ‘It was very hard with him being away, but luckily I had plenty of family to help me when I needed it.
‘It was nice that he was able to come home for 10 days after Albie was born.’
There were almost 1,000 people packing the jetty at the naval base to welcome HMS Richmond back.
After coming off the ship, Lieutenant Megan Hall, 28, from Stubbington, weaved her way through the crowds to find her family and deliver a bouquet of flowers to her mum, 60-year-old Zoe.
Lt Hall said: ‘This day has been a long time coming and it feels great to be back.
‘It was my first deployment and it was really challenging but it was fantastic.
‘I’ve seen some places I would never have been able to see and the whole ship pulled together.’
Over the course of the ship’s seven months at sea, servicemen and women on board conducted maritime security operations in the Atlantic.
They also worked with foreign navies and strengthened naval ties in the regions they visited.
Petty Officer Stephen Ponsford, 32, of Fareham, was met by his daughter Elinor, two, and wife Rebecca.
He said: ‘It’s nice, so good to be back.’
Mrs Ponsford, 31, said: ‘It’s lovely, we’ve missed him lots.
‘Elinor has been excited this morning, saying she’ll see Daddy on his boat.’
HMS Richmond sailed from Portsmouth in August last year.
Engineering Technician (Weapons Engineering) Scarlett Johnson, who completed her first deployment on board, said: ‘The deployment over the past seven months presented a number of challenges and experiences.
‘We have visited 12 different places from the striking icy landscapes of South Georgia to the warm and vibrant Florida. Overall it has been a very rewarding and unforgettable experience, and it has been a deployment that I am personally very proud to have completed.’
HMS Richmond fired a 17-gun salute as she passed Southsea in the early morning yesterday.
As she arrived in the entrance of Portsmouth Harbour, a Royal Air Force Puma helicopter saluted the ship with a fly-past.
The Puma was followed by a Lynx helicopter from RNAS Yeovilton.
Debbie Coats, 40, from Southsea, was there to meet partner Warrant Officer Dan Scanlon, 42, with children Molly, four, Katie, three, and Zachary, who was born six weeks ago.
Ms Coats said: ‘It has been wonderful being here today and seeing how happy everyone is to see their families again.’
‘It’s good to see him home.’
WO Scanlon, pictured left with baby Zachary, said: ‘I’m really glad to be home.’